Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Has Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?

An index of select headlines from a single day earlier this week:

Uproar in House as Parties Clash on Iraq Pullout
Republicans and Democrats slung insults on the House floor
in a debate over whether to withdraw American troops from

Prosecutor in Leak Case Calls for New Grand Jury
A new grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case could extend the
political cloud hanging over the Bush administration.

DeLay Ex-Aide to Plead Guilty in Lobby Case
Michael Scanlon's deal reveals a broadening corruption
investigation involving top members of Congress.

Halliburton Case Is Referred to Justice Dept., Senator Says
Pentagon investigators referred allegations related to a
Halliburton contract in Iraq to the Justice Department for
possible criminal investigation.

Mosque Attacks Kill 70 in Iraq; Hotel Is Hit, Too
It was the deadliest coordinated bombing in months, and
came after bombs exploded near a Baghdad hotel that houses


Not a good day on the news front, but I'm afraid we're reaping what we've sown at the voting booth.

One thing in particular stands out to me from the usual white noise background of corruption and spin. A furious personal denunciation of Democratic Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha and a calculated misinterpretation of his statement followed his emotional demand that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. As has become commonplace in the age of Karl Rove, a politician's criticism of a governmental policy now begets livid ad hominem attacks, which in turn beget indignant character defenses, all predictably spiraling down to a sewer of name-calling and invective.

While I hesitate to call any politician "innocent," for this latest fracas I blame the Republicans, just as they deserve scorn for the unconscionable "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" chapter of the last election, and their calculated attempt to smear John Kerry's character as an electoral strategy.

This is the lowest I have seen governmental functioning in my lifetime.

Murtha's demand was the heartfelt assessment of one man who has worn the uniform, the personal opinion of one elected official. It is his right, his obligation, his duty to speak his mind. And his view strongly echoes the sentiments of very many citizens of this country.

The response of the Republican machine to this firestorm was to put forth a hastily-drawn resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Iraq, something they knew would fail overwhelmingly, something they had no interest in effecting, and something not advocated by Murtha nor even a majority of the war's critics. It was another episode of calculated, dirty, political wrangling, plain and simple. To call John Murtha a coward and a fool is to hurl the same epithets at everyone who shares his sentiments. This is not how we should be getting things done. And indeed precious little is getting done.

I've said it before: I know that politics is a dirty business, and neither party is immune to stooping as low as need be to get the job done. But in my opinion the stooping has never been lower than what we're seeing now, and at just the moment when the debate should be the most serious. The issues on our table at this juncture, and the consequences of these policies are as far-reaching and monumental as anything tackled by government in my lifetime. That makes for high emotions, I suppose. And I suppose a Bush supporter would argue that when one is trying to accomplish something as ambitious as what Bush seems to envision in the Middle East, the friction will run high and resistance will be stiff. But even if I grant them a noble and difficult mission aspiration--something about which I remain unconvinced--then this resort to the basest of politics and the administration's failure to build workable alliances seems the more inexcusable. Every fool has a utopian vision. The trick is to do the impossible work to bring utopia to us.

Sorry to say it again: but at each turn this administration appears to be an abject, disastrous failure.


Lizzie said...

I think the increased personal attacks are a sign that this administration is finally getting scared. It realizes it has dug itself an awful hole that it's not going to be able to get out of. It also realizes that it has completely sabotaged its chances of success of its lofty second term agenda (like social security). What we're seeing is an administration just barely treading water. It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence or give me much faith in what's to come.

Joshua said...

Not much to come, this is second term and, truly, we will be seeing Hillary in the next white house.

How much of this, and I don't want to diffuse blame, is the media's overinvolvement and misrepresentation? What I mean to say is, the machine both sides are using is using both sides for ratings. That means John Q Public isn;t going to see goverment in action, because government in action is boring. They are going to see government in termoil, because it sells.

You say this is the worst you have ever seen it. Perhaps that is because the cloud of mystery has been lifted from government, and everyone is now allowed to see it.


wunelle said...

Yeah, I agree that turmoil sells, definitely. We have become a culture unable to distinguish between news and entertainment.

And it's certainly possible that this isn't actually the worst governmental malaise, but only that I'm seeing it this way; this may be a perception thing more than a reality thing.

I remember thinking that the whole Clinton scandal was an attempt to stir the pot for ratings and political advantage. I suppose I have to look at the possibility that the shoe being on the other foot looks somehow different to me when in fact it's a similar phenomenon. Still, the issues seem so different to me.

Still kinda sucks either way!

Chairborne Stranger said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. Snap those fingers.

Most of the guys here just try to ignore the political arguments. They're like, "There are political demonstrations in the US??" They're more involved in our life here-3 dead on Thanksgiving, 4 the day before, 9 on the 19th, 8 on the 16th-a handful right down the street from us. It sucks.

I try to stay up on the political front, though it seems to be moving very fast lately.

wunelle said...

I can see that the push & pull of the politics behind our involvement in the region is kind of a pointless thing to spend your time chewing over while you're there doing the job. Especially when just living thru the job takes rather a lot of effort; it must make the usual shitbath of politics seems quite silly.

Except, of course, insofar as politics has sent you there in the first place (I can't say that definitively, of course, but it's a legitimate and worthwhile question). Then I say: keep on wranglin'!

Public opinion is not a determiner of truth, of course, but this latest outcry might at least get us to start looking into things that W wants kept closed. For my part I just want to know the score, plain and simple. But I think I don't have the right constitution for politics, certainly not as a participant, but probably not even as an observer.

Glad you had a safe (and filling) holiday!

Matthew said...

The current group of Republicans calling Rep. Murtha a coward is an instance of the pot calling the kettle black, only Rep. Murtha is not a kettle.

Chairborne Stranger said...

Yeah, the politics are trying, and not really a help. It's too bad I can't write everything I want on my blog, but oh well.